Surveillance Essay Example



1984 is a book created by George Orwell, was published in June 1949, and has a theme which revolves around the life of a dystopian society. The book somewhat relates to my research, which is how surveillance is all around us. I found this topic interesting because I saw a picture where it talked about how a guy thought the FBI was tracking him for the past 25 years, and nobody believed him. It was after he died that the FBI released his files which shows data of the things he did before he died. The story got me interested in how the government and the public can watch you and record the things you do. Several of the government programs like the FBI, DEA, and even the Pentagon use surveillance equipment to spy on their suspects.

Countries like China are creating detailed profiles of all the citizens, and start tracking your actions after you stepped outside your household. A quote from O'Brien in Part Three, Chapter Two, "Never again will you be capable of ordinary human feeling. Everything will be dead inside you. Never again will you be capable of love, or friendship, or the joy of living, or laughter, or curiosity, or courage, or integrity. You will be hollow. We shall squeeze you empty, and then we shall fill you with ourselves."

The quote describes what society was like and how demonetizing life was for the public. Surveillance technology is advancing, and sooner or later, we may become a society illustrated by the book 1984.  In the novel 1984, George Orwell correctly foresaw public surveillance, and people willingly giving up their right to privacy out of fear. Orwell incorrectly predicted the government trying to break the ties people have with their families and each other, and trying to abolish the act of sex. The book connects to today and how we have surveillance all around us.

Positive and Negative Effects of Surveillance

Surveillance is a close observation of a person or a group, especially one under suspicion to influence, direct, managing, or protecting. It creates both positive and negative effects. It is beneficial for governments and law enforcement to maintain social control, prevent crimes, recognize threats, to investigate criminal activity, etc. All sorts of cameras are used to monitor civilians like aural surveillance, Visual surveillance, tracking devices, Computer surveillance, CCTV, Facial Recognition, street level, and speed camera which are utilized for multi purposes. Chinese companies like Huawei and ZTE are creating what is called a “smart city” located in Pakistan, Kenya, and the Philippines, which features the surveillance technology. Huawei has also outfitted Bonifacio Global City in the Philippines with high definition internet connected cameras. Hikvision, Yitu, and SenseTime are supplying state-of-the-art facial recognition cameras to Singapore. AI is becoming so advanced that it can create fake news which never happened to create drama. AI is everywhere; an example would like smartphones and the internet. 

Web Browsing is surveillance almost 24/7, a search engine like google chrome looks at your shopping patterns and plans different ways to advertise it. Websites like Facebook also these tactics to grab the users attention while they are scrolling through the website. Previously viewed things you look at are shown as advertisements so that people can look at the latest deals of a variety of situations. The Internet is a surveillance state. Whether we admit it to ourselves or not, and whether we like it or not, we're being tracked all the time. Google tracks us, both on its pages and other pages which it has access. Facebook does the same; it even tracks non-Facebook users. Apple tracks us on our iPhones and iPads. A website known as “Alphr” has a pop-up which shows how they value our privacy and have a couple of sentences talking about, “This website uses technology to collect website performance and usage data to provide better experiences and content.

This may also include showing you more relevant advertisements. By clicking "Accept", you agree to this. You can learn more via our privacy policy To change your preferences, click here.” This shows how various websites like Alphr use data to make their own website better. Various people, such as governments, large corporations/businesses, etc., 'play' with people’s minds and also intrude into multiple aspects of their lives through electronic means. For example, look at so many of the advertisements today, websites can obtain our private information and collect all sorts of data on us, to ultimately exploit or control us, and affect our minds with some 'brainwashing' at some level. This is ubiquitous surveillance: All of us being watched, all the time, and that data being stored forever. This is what a surveillance state looks like, and it's efficient beyond the wildest dreams of George Orwell.

China, in a way, is becoming a dystopian society, there is a  “citizen score” follows you wherever you go. Having a high score allows you access to faster internet service or a fast-tracked visa to Europe. Private companies who work with your government go through enormous amounts of information on your social media and shopping trend to make up your score. To add on to that, once you step outside your door, you are continually being monitored by people to see if you cause any danger or harm to another person, and if that happens, the Facial Recognition cameras will track your identity, and the police will be there in no time. 

A vast network of surveillance cameras continuously monitors citizens’ movements to reduce crime and terrorism. China planned to create a surveillance system called “Golden Shield,” which allows easy access to local, national, and regional records on each citizen. The developers have since only made a firewall which blocks the citizens to lose access to websites like Google and Facebook. China’s experiments with digital surveillance pose a grave new threat to freedom of expression on the internet and other human rights in China. 

The Issue of Cameras

Surveillance Systems Are Easily Abused, and A con of surveillance cameras in public places is that these security cameras may be abused. One example of how an open camera may be misused is that information gathered by law enforcement can be used as a form of blackmail. Another type of abuse is voyeurism. Spying on women with public surveillance cameras is quite common, which becomes quite an issue that needs to be dealt with. Overall, the simple lack of control or limits on general cameras use is one of the biggest problems. Until now, there is no sound check-and-balance system to prevent abuses from occurring.

Another controversy of the use of surveillance cameras in public places is that its effectiveness has not been proven. While there has been a push for more public CCTV cameras to be placed in public places because of the threat of terrorist attacks, it is quite clear that a suicidal bomber is not going to be deterred by the fact that there is a camera in place. According to the American Civil Liberties Union, officials in Michigan have been proposing to put up public video surveillance for years but ended up concluding that the limited results could not justify high maintenance and personnel costs. 

In today’s world, public cameras can be beneficial. When we install a home security camera, we gain increased house safety. Just like that, the main benefit of surveillance cameras in public spaces is also an increase in public safety. Public surveillance cameras help you stay safe while clubbing, shopping, and traveling. The general security cameras can be used as a way to keep an eye out for crimes. PTZ security cameras put in public spaces, like a crossroad, a retail store, parking lots, museums, concert halls, do an excellent job in providing 360° seamless surveillance solutions.

Video Surveillance

Additionally, crimes can be deterred before they even begin in some cases. If a suspicious individual or individuals or items are seen in an area, the appropriate authorities can be contacted to move into the area before any damage is done or any crime is committed. Moreover, any people in the area can be cleared as a precaution. Since public safety is guaranteed, people’s fear of crime can also be reduced, while their sense of security is created. Video surveillance statistics show that camera surveillance does reduce crime – after security cameras were put in public, crime incidents in Humboldt Park dropped 20%. If an individual knows that there are live surveillance cameras in a particular area, they may be less willing to commit a crime near the location for fear of being caught.

Some authorities place public cameras in Walmart and other shops, hoping that the cameras will help prevent crimes from being committed. If a crime is engaged in an area where a public surveillance camera has been set up, the chances of catching the criminal are much higher. Facial recognition software has improved dramatically over the years. So, if security cameras capture criminals in public places, the local authority can recognize and catch them easier with facial recognition technology. Posters can be created, and the images can be aired on network television to help spread the word about the criminal. Without the surveillance cameras in public places, it can be challenging to gain a quality description of the person who committed the crime, even if there were eyewitnesses. Catching criminals is one of the best benefits of surveillance cameras in public places. The bombing at the Boston Marathon is a good example. It only took the FBI three days to release blurry shots of the two suspects, accompanied by a surveillance camera installed in a department store.

In total, surveillance is all around us and has its pros and cons. Monitoring has its place in web browsing, technology, security cameras, AI, and Surveillance Capitalism. Surveillance crosses our privacy borders, in New York, for example, police can only use video surveillance as a part of the investigation into the alleged criminals after obtaining a warrant from local authorities.  Surveillance has raised a lot of concerns in privacy issues in the advancing technology.

The electronic devices used include the closed circuit TV, the VCR, the telephone bugging, electronic databases, and the proximity cards. Surveillance has presented numerous challenges to the right to privacy. Every individual is entitled to the right to privacy, and measures should be taken to address these issues in the new technology. Advanced technology can be beneficial if properly handled, but it can also present with a lot of damage risks if misused. On the other hand, privacy can be described as the ability of not exposing an individual in any way to others without his consent.